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Huron Carole feeds the hungry

Posted on December 4, 2013 by Lethbridge Sun Times

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George Canyon is part of a lineup of musical stars who will bring the Huron Carole fundraising concert to Southminster United Church on Dec. 6, to benefit local food banks.

The Huron Carole, a cross-Canada tour of big-name musicians to raise money for community food banks, doesn’t come to Lethbridge very often, so when it comes to Southminster United Church, as it will Dec. 6, it is like, well, Christmas for Lethbridge’s food banks.

“It brings a lot of awareness to our cause, because of the big names involved,” said Interfaith Food Bank executive director Danielle McIntyre.

“The message goes further when there is a celebrity attached,” she continued.

Tom Jackson has a 40-year career in music, television and films, but he wants his legacy to be feeding the hungry.

He brings the annual Huron Carole celebration to the Southminster Church with George Canyon, Beverly Mahood, One More Girl and Shannon Gaye to raise money for food banks including the Interfaith Food Bank, Lethbridge Food Bank and the Kainai Food Bank in Standoff.

He has been spreading goodwill and good cheer for this good cause since 1987, but has only been to Lethbridge with the Carole three times.

“I was fortunate to meet a member of the elders and one memorable thing he said to me was ‘I’m afraid I’m going to lose my shadow,’” said Jackson before one of the first shows on this year’s tour in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“What that means is you want to have the opportunity to create a legacy for your children to remember. I want my legacy to be feeding as many children as I can for a long as I can. And I want to tell your readers that it is is a team effort and I love you,” he said.

“It is a lot of work. Mostly for my wife Alison. But it doesn’t feel like it. It is a labour of love.”

Jackson has led Huron Carole all over the country raising money for the food banks in each community since 1987. The lineup changes slightly every year.

He said the performers will sing solo sets as well as together.

“It’s all of that,” he said.

He added the show will put people into a Christmasy mood.

“I used to do an event called ‘Stories, Song and Tomfoolery.’ So there will be a lot of that,” he said.

“So there will be lots of Christmas stories and lots of laughter. I can sense people’s spirits being lifted when they are leaving,” he said.

He praised his fellow performers.

“I‘ve known Carly and Britt McKillop who are One More Girl since they were little. I used to sit in their living room and listen to them sing like siblings only do and knew I was seeing the future of country music. I’ve known Shannon Gaye for 16 years. Beverly Mahood is one of those people I can ask to do a favour and she’ll do it. She won’t even ask what it is. I just met George Canyon at the floods in Alberta. He’s a guy who walks the walk and talks the talk. He’ll bend his back when he could be doing other things,” he enthused.

The lineup is stellar. Juno Award winner Canyon is one of Canada’s top country stars. He has sold over 300,00 albums and has charted countless hits including his latest, “Slow Dance,” “All or Nothing” and “Seven Spanish Angels,” to name just a few.

Rising B.C.-based country stars One More Girl have a couple of hits including “I Can Love Anyone,” “Tumbling Tears,” “Misery Loves Company” and their latest single, “Love Like Mine.”

Mahood is an actress, model, songwriter and a successful singer who is known for a variety of hits including “Hope and Gasoline.” She is finishing a new album to be released next year.

Gaye has been part of many Tom Jackson fundraisers including “Singing For Supper Concert Series.” She is a soul, R and B and jazz singer who has just released her new CD “Little Wonder.”

Jackson is also a renowned musician and actor who was born to an English father and Cree mother. He has been an actor, singer, producer and activist for the past 40 years. Some of his career highlights are playing Chief Peter Kenidi in the popular TV show “North of 60” and even guest starred on “Star Trek: the Next Generation.” He released his 15th album in 2011. He has organized several benefit concert series including The Huron Carole, Singing for Supper and Swinging For Supper.

Jackson said, now, more than ever, people need help from food banks.

“People should be helping from New Year’s to Christmas instead of just Christmas to New Year’s,” he said.

He estimated to date, Huron Carole has raised approximately $220 million for food banks across Canada.

“We’d like to be on the frontline, but we can do more by sharing our gifts — the gift of song,” he said.

“There’s more need now for assisting food banks,” he continued.

McIntyre estimated the event will bring in as much as twice as much money as the Rotary’s reading of a Christmas Carol from last year, which brought $6,000 to the food banks.

“I would expect it to double. We’re supplying a few volunteers, but everybody else is doing the work. We just get to smile and say thank you and cash the cheque. Everybody else is doing the bulk of the work. It’s going to be a pretty special event,” she said, adding donations of food are always welcome, especially Christmas foods like cranberries and stuffing. But cash is better.

“That way we can buy exactly what we need,” she said, adding they buy turkey, ham and perishable items for the Christmas hampers, which clients receive in addition to their normal hampers.

She noted the food banks actually have fewer clients this year. It is down to 2,000 compared to 2,200 last year.

The tour is going well so far.

“Newfoundland is awesome. It’s like being in a whole new world on the rock,” Jackson enthused, adding that show is sold out. Shows in Fredericton and the first one in Halifax have also been well attended.

Bringing the Huron Carole to the city is Lethbridge Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Christmas fundraiser for the local food banks.

For the past couple of years they have put on a reading of the Christmas Carol.

“It replaces the Christmas Carol this year. We thought it was the next logical step,” said Judy Reed, who is spearheading the Sunrise Rotary Club committee which is sponsoring this event.

They met Jackson, the Huron Carole organizer, during the Rotary district meeting in the spring. And while the idea didn’t come about then, they jumped on board as soon as they heard it was coming to Lethbridge and contacted Jackson’s wife Alison who organizes many of his charitable events.

“We love Tom Jackson,” Reed enthused.

The Sunrise Rotary Club will be supplying volunteers to act as ushers and to help with the setup.

“That will be the most fun job, being part of a team like that,” she said, adding the goal is to sell 500 tickets to the show.

“We’re almost there now. We sold 420, but that was on Nov. 15. The church holds 1,000, but that would be pretty tight,” she said

The Sunrise Rotary Club are promoting VIP tickets for $95.

“VIP tickets include a reception with all of the performers right before the show and seats in the first five rows,” she enthused.

“It’s all about defeating hunger and feeding the soul,” she continued, reflecting the mission statement of the Huron Carole.

“This is a very timely event,” said Lethbridge Food Bank warehouse manager Al Blakely, adding the Lethbridge Food bank is supplying 750 hampers and 750 treat bags as well, which is an increase over last year.

“We’re very fortunate to get support from events like this,” he continued, adding they also look forward to the annual Holiday train which comes to Lethbridge Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. behind the northside Save On Foods (2 Avenue North and 12 Street) which features performers Melanie Doane and Matt Dusk.

The Huron Carole begins at Southminster United Church at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6. Tickets are available through the Ticket Centre for $45 or $95 for the VIP package.

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